On 17 and 18 June, the ‘Friends of the Western Balkans’, the newly established network of social-democratic Members of Parliaments and Members of the European Parliament from across the EU, met for the first time in Sarajevo. They committed to joining forces and promoting action to revitalise the EU enlargement to the Western Balkans, engaging with like-minded people all over the region and strengthening mutual understanding and friendship.
Ahead of the upcoming European Council, which shall decide on the candidate status of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, the Friends of the Western Balkans urge the European Heads of State and Government to also take resolute actions toward the Western Balkan countries, which for too long have been stuck in different ‘waiting rooms’, while the EU member states hesitate to move on the accession process.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine brought war back to Europe and reminded us how important it is to preserve peace, and protect and support democratic forces across the continent. For this reason, the opportunity to make the European Union’s commitment to the Western Balkans credible must not be lost.
It is high time for the European leaders to remove the obstacles that keep stalling the accession process. It is time for negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania to start. It is time for the EU to concretely support Bosnia-Herzegovina’s effort to overcome its political stalemate and put in place democratic reforms, so that the country can be ensured candidate status as soon as possible. And it is time for Kosovo to be granted visa liberalisation, whose criteria were fulfilled in 2018.
The Friends of the Western Balkans network has been established thanks to the joint work of the Foundation for European Progressive Studies – FEPS (European Union), the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (Germany), Karl-Renner-Institut (Austria), Masarykova demokratická Akademie (Czechia), Kalevi Sorsa Foundation (Finland), Fondation Jean-Jaurès (France), Foundation Max van der Stoel (Netherlands), Društvo Progresiva (Slovenia), Olof Palme International Center (Sweden), in cooperation with CeSPI (Italy).
Sarajevo, 18 June 2022
László Andor, Secretary General, Foundation for European Progressive Studies
Arjen Berkvens, Director, Foundation Max von der Stoel (the Netherlands)
Marina Berlinghieri, Member of the Chamber of Deputies, Italy
Delara Burkhardt, Member of European Parliament, Germany
Doris Bures, President, Renner Institut (Austria)
Adnan Dibrani, Member of Riksdag, Sweden
Piero Fassino, Member of Parliament, Italy
Daniele Frigeri, President, Centro Studi di Politica Internazionale (Italy)
Josip Juratovic, Member of the Bundestag, Germany
Kimmo Kiljunen, Member of Parliament, Finland
Mojca Kleva Kekuš, Chairwoman, Društvo Progresiva (Slovenia)
Mikko Lievonen, Director, Kalevi Sorsa Foundation (Finland)
Florent Marciacq, Co-Director, Observatoire des Balkans, Fondation Jean Jaurès (France)
Thijs Reuten, Member of European Parliament, the Netherlands
Stefan Schennach, Member of Bundesrat, Austria
Andreas Schieder, Member of European Parliament, Austria
Martin Schulz, President, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (Germany)
Sanela Skrijelj, Member of Parliament, North Macedonia
Anna Sündstrom, Secretary General, Olof Palme International Center (Sweden)
Bertalan Tóth, Member of the National Assembly, Hungary
Harald Troch, Member of the Nationalrat, Austria
Lubomír Zaorálek, President, Masaryk Democratic Academy (Czech Republic)
Damijan Zrim, Member of Parliament, Slovenia
Link to the original statement here.
Kalevi Sorsa Foundation has been supporting democracy in the Western Balkans since 2008. Jelena Simic, Project Manager for the Foundation’s Balkan project, attended the first meeting of the Friends of Western Balkans network in Sarajevo.